I met Curt Mangan a few months ago in Cortez, Colorado. We had a great chat while he gave me a tour of his string factory. He convinced me that every guitarist needs a Strat or Tele in the stable. I haven't played a Strat in more than ten years. I bought my first Strat in 1976, I wish I still had it. A few others went through my hands over the years, but I never bonded with them. I told Curt I'm a Gibson guy. But he planted a seed. I don't spend as much on guitars as I once did and Strats have gotten expensive (like everything else). I budgeted about $1,000 and then decided DIY was the way to go. By DIY, I mean more of assembling parts rather than doing a full on build. My intent was never to see how cheaply I could assemble a Strat, the idea was to maximize quality within my budget. After some research I went with BYO. They have affordable kits with things like generic bodies and Fender licensed or Mighty Mite necks - presumably sourced in Asia. But what interested me was their Custom Shop. You can spec a body and neck and they make it right there in their New Hampshire shop. They can also apply a finish. I went with a two-piece Swamp ash body, Black limba (korina) neck with rosewood fretboard, jumbo frets, Grover Mini-Rotomatic tuners, Wilkinson Vintage six-screw trem-bridge and so on. Kim at BYO finished the body and neck with Wudtone stain and she did a great job. I received it on Wednesday and started assembling. I expected to have to do some fret finish work, but they came leveled, crowned and nicely polished! Like I said, this wasn't really a build as much as it was an assembly task. The finish is called Azure Sky - it looks green in the photos, but it has more blue than the photos show. It plays great, but it's a real adjustment for a Gibson guy to find his sound with a strat. I think I'm going to like this guitar. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. BTW - with a Gator Deluxe wood frame case and shipping I came in only $50 over budget. Crappy parts pic - neck is not attached Wudtone finish Black limba neck with rosewood Body masked for shielding paint Initial set up done - it'll take some refinement.